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After the wonderful retrospective at the Jeu de Paume in 2019, the Karsten Greve gallery offers us the pleasure of diving back into the ghostly landscapes of the American artist who has made photography a memorial quest on the edge of dream and reality.

As if sprung from some timeless tale or the mists of time, playing with the depth of blacks and the evanescence of greys, transparency and opacity, opalescence and blurring, but also accidental spots, discolorations, and other imperfections resulting from the use of old lenses and the old technique of the wet collodion, its rivers with stagnant waters and the shadows lurking in the thicket of the big trees of its Battlefields, the battlefields of the Civil War – black deserts given up to the assaults of the memory… – Sally Mann (born in 1951 in Lexington, Virginia) tells the dark story of the Deep South, her native land of pain.

“To live in the South (…) is to be both nourished by it and wounded by it. To identify oneself as a Southerner is to imply that not only do we not escape the history of this region and that it shapes us profoundly, but also that it remains present in us, imperishable. The people of the South live on the edge between myth and reality…”. From this “poor, broken-hearted Southern land,” “haunted by death”but of “extravagant beauty,” Sally Mann extracts all the juices – the earthy, watery fragrances, the darkness of the great shadowy trees (those “silent witnesses”), the milky or wispy whiteness of the twilight mists… – the substance of a landscape “terrible in its beauty, and in its indifference.”

Relying on the “angel of uncertainty,” whom she says she prays to, via the (chamber) printing of wet collodion glass plates used in the 19th century, Sally Mann makes virtuoso use of overexposures (pushing certain images to the limit of invisibility), of random light traces, and accidental blurs (which she sometimes accentuates by adding dust), all of which are capable of blurring the boundaries between reality and fantasy. A neo-pictorialist visual experimentation with the appearance of introspection, which makes us vacillate between the shadow and the light.

Exposition « Sally Mann »
Jusqu’au 30 octobre
À la galerie Karsten Greve – 5, rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris –

By Stéphanie Dulout